Saturn IB rocket ‘degraded beyond repair’

The Saturn IB rocket at the Alabama welcome center in Ardmore has "degraded beyond repair,"...
The Saturn IB rocket at the Alabama welcome center in Ardmore has "degraded beyond repair," according to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.(Alabama Department of Transportation)
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 10:22 PM CST
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ARDMORE, Ala. (WBRC) - The Saturn IB has proudly welcomed visitors along Interstate 65 to Alabama for years will have to go.

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville said in a statement on Friday that the rocket “was not designed to withstand extended outdoor exposure and critical structural elements of the rocket have degraded beyond repair.” They and NASA agree that the rocket could pose a safety risk if left in place.

Estimated costs to disassemble and reconstruct the rocket would exceed $7 million. Even then, there is no guarantee the rocket would survive the process.

Even though the rocket must come down, leaders are working to find an appropriate replacement.

“This is an opportunity to create a landmark that will withstand the test of time and serve as a symbol of Alabama’s past and current role in space and technology,” said State Rep. Andy Whitt, who chairs the House Committee on Economic Development and Tourism. “Everyone involved is working together to create the next great icon for our community, our state, and our nation.”

The Saturn IB in Ardmore is owned by NASA and on loan to the Rocket Center for display at the welcome center.

“We are inspired by the community’s passion for the rocket and the accomplishments it represents,” Dr. Kimberly Robinson, CEO and Executive Director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. “Whether the rocket is replaced by a replica of the Saturn IB or another rocket, we’re excited at the possibility for a new enduring emblem of Alabama’s leadership in space exploration.”

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